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Of Men and Marshes

Paul Errington

Publication Year: 2012

Standing with such environmental classics as Loren Eiseley’s The Immense Journey, his friend and mentor Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac, and Joseph Wood Krutch’s The Voice of the Desert, Paul Errington’s Of Men and Marshes remains an evocative reminder of the great beauty and intrinsic value of the glacial marshland. Prescient and stirring, steeped in insights from Errington’s biological fieldwork, his experiences as a hunter and trapper, and his days exploring the marshes of his rural South Dakota childhood, this vibrant work of nature writing reveals his deep knowledge of the marshland environments he championed.
Examining the marsh from a dynamic range of perspectives, Errington begins by inviting us to consider how immense spans of time, coupled with profound geological events, shaped the unique marshland ecosystems of the Midwest. He then follows this wetland environment across seasons and over the years, creating a compelling portrait of a natural place too little appreciated and too often destroyed. Reminding us of the intricate relationships between the marsh and the animals who call it home, Errington records his experiences with hundreds of wetland creatures. He follows minks and muskrats, snapping turtles and white pelicans, red foxes and blue-winged teals—all the while underscoring our responsibility to preserve this remarkable and fragile environment and challenging us to change the way we think about and value marshlands.

This classic of twentieth-century nature writing, a landmark work that is still a joy to read, offers a stirring portrait of the Midwest’s endangered glacial marshland ecosystems by one of the most influential biologists of his day. A cautionary book whose advice has not been heeded, a must-read of American environmental literature, Of Men and Marshes should inspire a new generation of conservationists.  

Published by: University of Iowa Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-9

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introduction. Paul L. Errington: His Life and Work

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pp. ix-xxix

Trapper, ecologist, and narure writer Paul Erringron dedicated his life ro the understanding and preservation of wetland environments and ro the rich diversity of wildlife that calls them home. Through his technical research as well as in his popular writing, Erringron...

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pp. xxxi-xxxii

My own experience with glacial marshes started with muddy feet on the family farm in east-central South Dakota. It continued through years of hunting and fur-trapping and through the long-term research programs that accompanied and followed my rather...

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1. of glacial marshes and time

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pp. 1-6

Earth has had its great climatic changes, its alternate advances and withdrawals of contincntal glaciers. Because of their recency, the evidences of Pleistocene ice sheets arc conspicuously before us. Of the recognized glacial stages in North America, the latest, known...

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2. of marshes and spring

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pp. 7-19

Sometimes, it comes almost as a prolongation of a winter thaw. I saw migrating Canada geese in a wet eastern South Dakota in early February. I can still remember a small flock that appeared over a low hilltop, their clamor preceding and following them. Another...

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3. of marshes and summer

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pp. 21-33

To know what summer really can be on a north-central glacial marsh, one must go either westward or northward from Iowa---or, better, northwestward into northeastern South Dakota. A century ago, Iowa's marshes may have been like those to the west, north, or...

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4. of marshes and fall

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pp. 35-45

As late summer grades off into weeks of autumnal mellowness, the waterfowl migration has the appearance of a leisurely procedure. Puddle ducks cover the shallows and mud flats of the more favored marshes with thousands of loafing, sleeping, feeding bodies. In fall...

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5. of marshes and winter

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pp. 47-64

For marsh animals adapted to live beneath the ice, early winter may bring no great problems. There are usually weeks after freezeup on a north-central marsh when the water is of almost uniform temperature and without movement except near springs, stream...

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6. of marshes and marshes

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pp. 65-84

Although the northern prairie marshes are mainly of glacial origin, they are not exclusively so. There are also the river oxbows. Much of my own experience with oxbows has been along the upper stretches of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers and their tributaries...

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7. of marshes and islands

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pp. 85-100

Marsh islands of the northern states and northward are often distinctive land areas, partaking of the wildness of the marsh itself. If sufficiently inaccessible, they are as nearly unvisited by man and by man's domestic stock as any of the higher ground about a marsh...

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8. of marshes and safety and comfort

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pp. 101-113

Without here attempting any complete coverage of the obvious, let me remind the careless hunter that he may injure or kill himself or another in an accident on a marsh as well as on land. I never witnessed a hunting accident and never knew personally anyone who...

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9. of marshes and peace of mind

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pp. 115-124

At times, one of man's greater needs is freedom from himself, and this freedom is likely to be increasingly threatened by population and economic pressures, by dogmas of organizations exalting power and bigness, and by old ideas that Nature exists only to be conquered....

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10. of marshes and man and harmonious use

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pp. 125-139

The great cartoons of my fellow-Iowan, J. N. ("Ding") Darling, were prodding the public conscience on land abuses--pollution, erosive farming, excessive deforestation and drainage--long before I became a resident of the state. They depicted the incongruities...

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epilogue: of marshes and the laws of life

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pp. 141-150

We may now consider a view that is held by many thoughtful people. It is not exclusively a view of professional ecologists and teachers, though ecologists and teachers are among those I have heard expressing it most frequently. A single sentence that paraphrases...

further reading

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pp. 151-152

E-ISBN-13: 9781609381363
Print-ISBN-13: 9781609381189

Page Count: 154
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 812253908
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Of Men and Marshes

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Subject Headings

  • Marshes.
  • Marsh ecology.
  • Natural history.
  • Marshes -- North America.
  • Marsh ecology -- North America.
  • Natural history -- North America.
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